This would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago but Penn State University saw no way out other than to clean house, a house that had been made into a citadel of national repute and a cash cow by some of the same people who have been given the axe. Penn's head football coach Joe Paterno, one of the two people let go this evening by the university is a decent and likable man by all accounts. But focused stubbornly on the tree of football, he failed to see the unruly forest in the real world outside the athletic arena. He had knowledge of a crime committed by a grotesquely opportunist predator who was a valuable associate whereas his helpless victims were inconsequential to the business of college football. Coach Paterno decided to look the other way. I feel no great joy in seeing an eighty four year old man's hard work and successful career come to an inglorious end full of shame. But this is the fitting outcome when in the mistaken judgment of a powerful football fraternity and an administration in its awe, the bottom line, booster clubs and NCAA rules trumped the law of the land.
Since my arrival in the US I have always lived in "football country." So I know a little about football as religion. But as they say, when you live by the sword, you are most likely to die by one. The recent scandal surrounding Penn State's fabled football program is being treated in the media as a shocking development. I wonder why. When athletic programs in colleges and universities are treated with more reverence than academics (purportedly the primary reason why universities exist), it leads to hubris, closely guarded cliques, misplaced priorities and occasionally, criminal negligence. Many like me, are not surprised.
(I am linking to Maureen Dowd after ages. I believe a woman's voice here is apt and she doesn't mince her words.)
.... So I’ve got to wonder how the 84-year-old coach feels when he thinks about all the children who look up to him; innocent, football-crazy boys like the one he was told about in March 2002, a child then Anthony’s age who was sexually assaulted in a shower in the football building by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s former defensive guru, according to charges leveled by the Pennsylvania attorney general.
Paterno was told about it the day after it happened by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant coach who testified that he went into the locker room one Friday night and heard rhythmic slapping noises. He looked into the showers and saw a naked boy about 10 years old “with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky,” according to the grand jury report.
It would appear to be the rare case of a pedophile caught in the act, and you’d think a graduate student would know enough to stop the rape and call the police. But McQueary, who was 28 years old at the time, was a serf in the powerfully paternal Paternoland. According to the report, he called his dad, went home and then the next day went to the coach’s house to tell him.
“I don’t even have words to talk about the betrayal that I feel,” the mother of one of Sandusky’s alleged victims told The Harrisburg Patriot-News, adding about McQueary: “He ran and called his daddy?”
Paterno, who has cast himself for 46 years as a moral compass teaching his “kids” values, testified that he did not call the police at the time either. The family man who had faced difficult moments at Brown University as a poor Italian with a Brooklyn accent must have decided that his reputation was more important than justice.